Significance of Temples
Every temple offers a unique experience based on how and why it is consecrated. It is not fantasy or imagination that people’s prayers are answered and wishes granted when they visit temples. The architecture-vastu, materials used to sculpt the murti, the pratishta process and the purpose that the yajamana has imagined for the temple all put together create an ambience for the devotee to experience the benefits. You might have heard about or visited the navapashana murti of Murugan at Palani or the sand lingam of Natadeeswarar temple. Many of the South Indian temples are consecrated by the siddhas though the grand outer structures are done by the kings, devotees or administrators.
Of these, the kula devata has a special significance. The devi or devata is the family’s ancestor caring about the well-being every moment. It is not uncommon for families to get dreams of commands or requests by kula deivams on specific matters. Even the family’s confusions and doubts get clarified in dreams. A visit to the kula devata is assuring and calming to the family. I have seen so many families settle down close to their kula devata post retirement. Their only purpose is to do seva at the temple and spread the message to as many people as possible. The temples of Tamil Nadu built by the Pallavas, Pandyas, Cholas, Naickers and other dynasties are grand and have stood the test of time. Temples were centers of economic, educational, ecological and cultural activities. We will soon be sharing a series of articles on temple architecture in our blog.
Pancha Bhoota Sthala
There are lakhs of temples in the country. However, some of them enjoy a special significance mainly because of the shakti of the devata coming from the consecration process. The Indian knowledge traditions recognise that the universe is composed of five elements and the manifest is divine play and combination of these elements. Right from the macrocosm to the microcosm, the pancha bhootas need to be balanced and the shiva lingas assist this process. The pancha bhoota sthalas in South India are at Kanchipuram — Prithvi Lingam (Earth), Thiruvannamalai- Agni Lingam (Fire), Thiruvannaikaval- Apu Lingam (Water), Chidambaram- Akasha Lingam (Space) and Kalahasti-Vayu Lingam (Wind). With the appropriate sadhana one can experience the resolution of the bhootas within oneself. We hope to start offering the Pancha Bhoota sthala yatra with relevant sadhana. Seeking Shiva peruman’s blessings.
When Adinarayanan ji and I visited Kanchipuram, we had an evening stroll and reached the ekambareswar/ekambaranathar temple.It was an unplanned visit as we were’nt sure if we would get enough time to visit the temple. In my humble experience, temple visits do not happen as per our plans. There have been numerous occasions when a darshan has been turned down and occasions when we had the smoothest and unexpected darshans.
The temple is huge and the architecture is brilliant. Initially built by the cholas and expanded the vijayanagara kings, the temple complex is grand with tall gopurams, pillars and sculptures. We read the sthalapurana on the sign board. We did a pradakshina of the sacred mango tree within the temple and sat in one of the mandapams. The moment we sat there, both of us experienced a deep sense of calmness and a sense of groundedness. It is difficult to explain the feeling in words but it was a feeling of contentment, as if everything had settled and there was nothing else to do. Only to be! Have you seen that sometimes you know something but it doesn’t strike you because you weren’t prepared for the moment. Something similar happened. Only after quite some walking around thae temple did we realise that we just had the darshan of a prithvi lingam. That explained the settled feeling and contentment. Doesn’t prithvi ground you? Amazing experience. Sorry for the spoiler! Experience it for yourself when you go there.
While wikipedia talks about a lot of legends associated with the place, I paraphrase what was written on the board there. Shiva peruman was meditating deeply. Maa Parvathi, in a playful mood, closed the eyes of Shiva peruman. The whole universe plunged into darkness. One may wonder why the whole universe will be affected when Shiva peruman’s eyes were closed for a few microsecond. Have you seen how aware leaders are. They don’t miss a moment and if there is a moment of unawareness that is when anything may happen-good or bad. Anything can happen when you sneeze and close your eyes when you are driving at top speed. A crude analogy but I think you get my point here. So imagine the case of someone overseeing all the lokas. A microsecond is too precious to miss.
For Maa Parvathy to become aware of her actions and to be more mindful, Shiva Peruman cursed her to be born on earth. Maa Parvathy made a lingam of the sand of veghavathi river and worshipped it under a mango tree. Shiva peruman appeared in front of her, embraced her and accepted her. Since he appeared from a single mango tree he came to be known as ekambareswar. Geneticists have cloned the tree and a the new tree adorns a shrine of Shiva peruman and Parvathi. It makes an ideal spot for a destination wedding.
This was not a curse but yet another leela of Shiva Peruman. Every occasion that Maa Parvathy takes birth on earth is a blessing for all of us and Shiva Peruman’s visit is beyond words. May the leela continue.
Pictures credit: Sh. Vijay Mistry, Mumbai